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Richmond, October 15.
Men of talents in this country, my dear S..... have been generally bred to the profession of the law : and indeed, throughout the United States, I have met with few persons of exalted intellect, whose powers have been directed to any other pursuit. The bar, in America is the road to honour; and hence, although the profession is graced by the most shining geniuses on the continent, it is incumbered also by a melancholy group of young men, who hang on the rear of the bar, like Goethe's sable clouds in the western hori
I have been told that the bar of Virginia was, a few years ago, pronounced by the supreme court of the United States, to be the most enlightened and able on the continent.
I am very incompetent to decide on the me. rit of their legal acquirements; but, putting aside the partiality of a Briton, I do not think either of the gentlemen by any means so eloquent or so erudite as our countryman Erskine. With your permission, however, I will make you better acquainted with the few characters who lead the van of the profession.
Mr..... has great personal advantages. A figure large and portly; his features uncommonly fine; his dark eyes and his whole countenance lighted up with an expres-sion of the most conciliating sensibility; his attitudes dignified and commanding; his gesture easy and graceful; his voice perfect harmony; and his whole manner that of an accomplished and engaging gentleman. I have reason to believe that the expression of his countenance does no more than justice to his heart. If I be correctly informed, his feelings
are exquisite; and the proofs of his benevolence are various and clear beyond the possibility of doubt. He has filled the highest offices in this commonwealth, and has very long maintained a most respectable rank in his profession. His character, with the people, is that of a great lawyer and an eloquent speaker; and, indeed, so many men of discernment and taste entertain this opinion, and my prepossessions in his favour are so strong, on account of the amiable qualities of his character, that I am very well disposed to doubt the accuracy of my own judgment as it relates to him. To
me, however, it seems, that his mind, as is often but not invariably the case, corresponds with his personal appearance: that is, that it is turned rather for ornament than for severe use: pompa, quam pugnæ aptior, as Tully expresses it. His speeches, I think, deserve the censure which lord Verulam
pronounces on the writers posterior to the reformation of the church. “Luther,” says he, «standing alone, against the church of Rome, “ found it necessary to awaken all antiquity in “his behalf: this introduced the study of the “dead languages, a taste for the fulness of “ the Ciceronean manner; and hence the still “prevalent errour of hunting more after « words than matter; and more after the “ choiceness of the phrase and the round and “clean composition of the sentence, and the “sweet fallings of the clauses, and the vary• “ing and illustration of their works with « tropes and figures, than after the weight of “matter, worth of subject, soundness of argu"ment, life of invention, or depth of judg. “ment."
Mr..... 's temper and habits lead him to the swelling, stately manner of Bolingbroke; but either from the want of promptitude and richness of conception, or his toa
sedulous concern and “hunting after words," he does not maintain that manner, smoothly and happily. On the contrary, the spirits of his hearers, after having been awakened and put into sweet and pleasant motion, have their tide, not unfrequently checked, ruffled and painfully obstructed by the hesitation and perplexity of the speaker. It certainly must demand, my dear S..... mind of very high powers to support the swell of Bolingbroke, with felicity. The tones of voice, which naturally belong to it, keep the expectation continually “on tiptoe,” and this must be gratified not only by the most oily fluency, but by a course of argument clear as light, and an alternate play of imagination as grand and magnificent as Herschell's dance of the sidereal system. The work requires to be perpetually urged forward. One interruption in the current of the language, one poor thought or abortion of fancy, one vacant aver